Charlotte · Isle of Palms

Best of Restaurants: Appetizers

Appetizers are my very favorite part of the meal.  Not a big commitment, you can be adventurous and not break the bank.  Here is a list of my favorites:

Caramelized Gnocchi from Aria Tuscan Grill

Fried Green Tomatoes at Huey’s Southern Eats in Isle of Palms

Mert’s Soul Rolls at Mert’s Heart and Soul in Charlotte

Homemade Lime Tortilla Chips served with Pineapple Mango Salsa from Caterer extraordinaire Food Junkie

Spinach and Artichoke Dip from Food Junkie

Filipino-style Pork Eggrolls with Spicy Apricot Dipping Sauce from Food Junkie

Funghi Repieni at Caruso’s in Mooresville

Peirogies from Twisted Oak Bar and Grill in Statesville, NC

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Nashville · Places · Restaurants · TN

Travel: Nashville, TN

My kids and I took a trip to Nashville, TN last year to see Avenged Sevenfold in concert.  It was our first trip with just the three of us after my divorce and it was mag.ni.fi.cent.  We had the best adventure ever! We leisurely toured the city and busied ourselves with shopping, fun and food in the city that friends recommended we hit.  Here’s a snapshot of our long weekend.  Or as I like to call it, the best road trip ever.

So, the reason we visited this awesome city: A7X.  Avenged Sevenfold.  The band that bridged the communication gap between myself and my daughter after that divorce.  Yeah, I love them.  So, they get top billing in this blog post.

We had great seats.  The best I could find.  We caught one of Johnny’s guitar pics at the end of the night.  Yes!!

Airbnb

We booked our apartment through Airbnb, and it was so much better than a cramped hotel room.  The owner told me that the apartment was formerly owned by Kris Kristopherson.  Pretty sweet!

The Grand Ole Opry

“The Show that Made Country Music Famous” began in 1925 and is the longest running radio broadcast in US history.  It is a weekly music stage concert that attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world.  I’d call it the hub of Nashville.

Parthenon

Built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, the Parthenon is a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece.  Today it serves as a museum with tons of sculptures and portraits, but truly it is a wonder in itself.  Don’t miss the huge statue of Athena that culminates this gorgeous tour.

 

Loveless Cafe

This one is a little ride outside of Nashville proper, but go on and make the drive.  It’s worth it.  We waited about 30-45 minutes, and really, it was just breakfast.  But you still gotta go.  I mean, it’s good breakfast.  Don’t get me wrong.  And they ply you with biscuits and jelly.  Still..eggs, bacon, grits…it’s breakfast.  They do have a cool store, but by the time we were done eating I was peopled out.

Pancake Pantry

If you visit Nashville, you must visit the Pancake Pantry, dubbed Nashville’s best pancakes. Founded in 1961, lines are usually long and you’ll wait, but it will be worth it.  It’s an institution here.  They get their special blend of flours from local sources and make their batters and syrups with a secret recipe fresh daily.

Mafiaoza’s Pizza

After the amazing concert, we decided to go get some pizza at this late night joint.  Luckily for us, they were open and kind enough to serve us.  I’m sure we looked like death warmed over.  All I know is my mascara was all down my face and I was drenched in sweat, I could barely hear the waitress from the loud concert and we were all shaking with hunger.  Smart move, not eating before the concert.

Anyway, we ordered the pie and laid our heads on the table like heathens until it got there.  It was delicious, with a soft crust and tangy sauce.  We’ll have to go at a more decent hour next time.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

Nashville’s coolest and most delicious ice cream…as far as I’m concerned.  It was blazing hot in Nashville when we were there, so we ducked into Jeni’s while shopping for a snack.  What we found were fancy flavors and ice cream made with the finest ingredients.  Perfection.  The purple here is wildberry lavender.  I *think* the one below it is Savannah Buttermilk.  Read between the lines, that one was less memorable!

 

GA · Savannah

Savannah, Georgia Trip

I’ve been dying to visit Savannah forever.  I’d always heard it was a charming city, and Paula Deen being there didn’t hurt either.  What I found surpassed my high expectations.

Wormsloe Historic Site:  The famous tree lined with gorgeous oaks leads to the ruins of a former plantation owned by Noble Jones in the 1700’s, who arrived with the first settlers from England.  It is the oldest standing structure in Georgia.

Laurel Grove Cemetery South:  I loved driving through this old graveyard and looking at beautiful, historic grave sites.  Weirdly enough, this was probably my favorite part of this trip.

Bonaventure Cemetery:  Hauntingly beautiful cemetery located on the Wilmington River.  Featured in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Gingerbread House:  This gorgeous home was built in 1899 and is used primarily as a venue for weddings and bridal parties.  It’s a great example of the Gingerbread style from Germany’s Black Forest region. Largest of the cities municipal cemeteries at 160 acres…and you can drive through.  My VERY favorite stop in Savannah.

Tybee Island Social Club: We visited on Easter so they only had a specific brunch menu, but it was delicious and flavored well. The best part about this experience was the patio seating and the live music.  Really cool place!

Vic’s on the River:  This was our favorite restaurant in Savannah.  The food was amazing, the view was even better, and on the wall is a map of Sherman’s march from Tennessee to Georgia hand drawn by Union soldiers.  Tons of history, a must visit!

Below Zero. Tucked in the Savannah Seafood Shack on Broughton, you can watch them make your ice cream as you wait in line! Rolled ice cream originated in Thailand and can only be found in a handful of cities: New York, Atlanta and now Savannah!

Charlotte · Restaurants

WP Kitchen in Charlotte

Our Girl Nosh May 2017 was supposed to be an super-hip restaurant Stoke.  Because it was on my birthday, we had a wonderful turnout…so much so that Stoke couldn’t accommodate all of us in their regular dining room.  We were going to have a private room and forced to order family style off of a very limited menu.  We decided that we wanted to try Stoke with a smaller crowd and started looking for a restaurant that could take us all.  Hello WP Kitchen!  You can thank Open Table for that realization, Wolfgang.

First, let me say they were so kind to us.  You can book a table for 12 online (nice!) but the group began to grow.  When I hesitantly said I needed a table for 20 they didn’t miss a beat.  They sat us outside in an air-conditioned patio that was private AND allows dogs.  It was raining that night, so the valet was a welcome service.

The decor is a mix between rustic and industrial.  I know that sounds conflicting, but it works.  They have the wooden accent wall that everyone loves so much right now, and then all of these industrial fixtures and utilitarian furnishings.  I dunno, I like it.

The cocktails were strong and they were delivered quickly 🙂  We all agreed that our food was amazing.  Even the simplest dish, like pizza margarita, was done with such care it was top notch.

Caesar Salad, my old favorite.  This one was tangy deliciousness!

What a special treat: soft shell crab!  This was crunchy on the outside, briny crabby on the inside…perfection!

Gosh, by the time desserts arrived I was so full I wasn’t too interested.  It was my birthday, though, so had to indulge 🙂  I chose the creme brulee, as per usual, and it was sweet, creamy and perfectly executed.

Myrtle Beach · Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach Hits and Misses

The Gay Dolphin Gift Shop.  Lots of stuff.  I mean, a lot.

Myrtle Beach Skywheel.  Tip: buy those tickets online.

Pirate’s Voyage.  Here’s my review on Yelp.  Dinner with a show!

 

Captain Juel’s Hurricane Restaurant.  Here’s my review on Yelp.  Sushi and Seafood with a view!

You’re here!
Full view of restaurant
Gorgeous Oaks near restaurant
Hushpuppies
Oysters on the half shell
Crab Dip
Spring Rolls…eh
Spider Roll
Sushi

 

Side Salad (look at that crouton!)
Gumbo
Crab Legs

Croissants.  Here’s my review on Yelp.  Best food in Myrtle.

Croissants
Acai Bowl
Strawberry and Nutella Crepe
Eggs Benedict, Potato Casserole and Ambrosia
Fish tacos
Chai Latte
Cinnamon Sugar Muffins
Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffin
Chicken Salad Croissant, Broccoli Cheddar Soup & Ambrosia Salad

Hamburger Joe’s.  See my review on Yelp!

Cheeseburger

MISSES 😦

Baron’s Steaks and Spirits.  Here’s my review on Yelp.

Filet Mignon with potato casserole
Chocolate Cake
Creme Brulee with Caramel Sauce

Margaritaville.  Here’s my review on Yelp.  It’s not horrible, but once was enough.

Margarita Hurricane
Watermelon Margarita
Crab Dip

Lava Lava Shrimp & Calamari
Taco Salad

 

Thoughts

the secret to happy

Man, if you live long enough, life will throw you curveballs.  It will give you tests you don’t pass, it will break your spirit.  We all have stories.

Life came at me and my family hard in 2009 in the form of a drunk driver hitting us head-on and changing our lives forever.  Changing me forever.  Broken legs, ankles, feet and now a knee has been added to the list.  That evening the doctors told my husband that they’d try to save my legs, but no promises.  Too much damage.  I woke up and they were there, but I was in for a LOOOONNGGG hospital/rehab stay.  Away from my family, my KIDS!  And life went right on.  During those long, often lonely months I chose to use most of my time being angry at God, plotting revenge on the idiot who hit us, and thinking about all I’d lost.

Fast forward to 2015.  Finally getting away from seemingly endless surgeries and doctor visits, horrible debt from being out of work for many years and finally feeling secure again…sort of.  For the first time in our married lives, our money was starting to get right, we had a new business, building our dream home after years in a small rental that we’d planned to be in a few months, our kids were great…then..divorce.  Betrayal. Terror.  ANGER.  Boy, have I got that emotion down.  

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It took me many months, over a year, ok so I’m still working on it.  Everything I did was motivated to show them they wouldn’t get me down.  I’d make more money, I’d finish this house, I’d be the best parent, I’d be the one with the least sin.  Don’t get me wrong, those feelings that pushed me to these goals had great outcomes, but happiness was escaping me.  True peacefulness.

It’s been over 2 years since I said I was done with my marriage.  Nearly 8 years since I thought I probably would never walk again.  It’s taken me that long to realize WHAT is important.  It wasn’t a job, or a bigger bank account or a new house and it certainly wasn’t being without sin…because I never managed that one.  The only thing that is important is your people.  That’s really it.  As long as you have people in your corner, your kids, your family, your friends, your church…you have it made.  Your tribe.  Oh…and the toughie…Forgiveness.  Yep, you gotta do that.

 

But here’s the thing, you do have to let it go…but you don’t have to STAY in a situation that is bad for your health…mental, physical, emotional.  You can love someone and still realize that you are worth being treated with love and respect.  THAT is my way of respecting the gifts God did give me.  

 

Forgiveness is something I had to try and try again.  It took me a good long while to get the hang of it.  But a good friend told me that this didn’t mean I didn’t get upset, didn’t stand up for myself, didn’t have to leave.  I can do those things too, and then forgive the behavior, the person, even if it isn’t asked for or reciprocated.  That’s what God commands of me.  I can’t say that I’m “religious” but of that I’m certain.

 

It occurs to me with all that’s going on in our world right now, why do we let statues get us riled up?  Why do we let a group of misguided people get us so bent out of shape?  Why do we (I) let our president make us want to fight with our friends or family?  Forgiveness: you gotta do it.  It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but I can’t even begin to tell you the burden that has been lifted off of me.  I feel like I can live again, I can BREATHE again.  

 

I have friends whose children have cancer, who have battled it themselves, friends that have lost children, spouses, loved ones.  Don’t waste one more second on emotions that don’t bring you joy.  As a REALTOR I tell people to depersonalize…as a friend I’m telling you to hang up whatever pictures you need, wherever you can to remind you of why this life is precious and truly what is important.  The list is usually short.  It ain’t things.

 

Oh, and full disclosure…I still sin, still get mad.  The other day a dude didn’t give me a turn signal and I got so mad I called him a name.  Few seconds later my phone rings.  Turned out it was my neighbor, who apologized profusely for not using his turn signal.  So, God allows me to be humbled quite often when I trip.  And guess what?  My neighbor forgave me 🙂

 

My TRIBE ❤

 

Recipe

Simply Good Sandwiches

Sandwiches represent a certain failing for me.  Whenever I can’t get a home cooked dinner on the table, I rely on this old staple to sustain my hungry people.  It’s a default if my kids won’t eat what I’ve made (yep, I’m one of those parents who don’t MAKE the kids eat what I fix.)  But I’ve learned that sometimes, when you make a sandwich, there is a certain comfort in being able to take your plate and eat in front of the TV while watching Seinfeld re-runs.  Here are some of my favorites:

Club Sandwich

Perfect for an easy summer dinner, especially with fresh homegrown tomatoes  Club Sandwich

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 slices toasted bread
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 slices American cheese
  • 4 slices shaved ham
  • 4 tomatoes, sliced, divided
  • 4 leaves lettuce, divided
  • 4 slices crisp bacon, divided
  • 2 slices Monterey jack cheese
  • 4 slices shaved deli turkey

DIRECTIONS

  • Spread mayonnaise on one side of a piece of toast; add layer of American cheese, ham, two slices of tomato, two leaves of lettuce, and two pieces of bacon.
  • Spread mayonnaise on second piece of toast and place on top, mayo side down.
  • Spread mayonnaise on top of that second piece of toast.
  • Layer Monterey Jack cheese, the rest of the tomatoes, lettuce, turkey and bacon on top.
  • Spread mayonnaise on third piece of toast and place on the stack mayo side down.
  • Slice the sandwich in quarters diagonally.
  • Skewers or long toothpicks may be used to hold all the layers together.

 

Grilled Chick N Wrappers

Grilled Chick N Wrappers
Grilled Chick N Wrappers

A wrap is a kind of sandwich, right?  I made this one for the family last night and it was a spot hitter.  You know, it hit the spot?  OK, so it comes together easily, and even though the word “grilled” is in the title, you just cook up the chicken in a skillet.  I suppose actually grilling it could only improve its flavor.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 cucumber
  • 8 ounces Monterrey jack and cheddar cheese blend
  • 6 slices hickory smoked bacon
  • 16 ounces shredded Lettuce
  • ranch salad dressing
  • 6 (10 inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 lime

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a skillet heat olive oil on medium.
  2. Cut the chicken thighs into strips and add to skillet.
  3. In a separate skillet, fry the bacon.
  4. While they are cooking, slice the onion, cucumber and set aside.

  5. When chicken is done and the bacon is done, remove from skillet and set aside.
  6. Assembly time. Heat the tortilla in microwave for 15 seconds.
  7. To the tortillas, add the ranch, lettuce, cucumbers, onion, bacon, cheese, and then chicken and squeeze a little lime juice over and wrap like a burrito.

Pressed Chicken Tortas

I got this recipe when I was using Blue Apron.  They have some really great recipes, probably the best service I’ve found.  This one seems long, but it’s just because they over-explain all steps 🙂  Give it a go.  Delicious sammy!

Photo credit: Blue Apron
  • 4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 4 Torta Rolls
  • 2 Limes
  • 1 Romaine Heart
  • 1 Avocado
  • 1 Tomato
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 1 bunch Cilantro
  • 3 oz Queso Fresco
  • 3 Tbsps Pepitas
  • ½ cup Low-Fat Sour Cream
  • 2 tsps Chicken Torta Spice Blend (Ancho Chile Powder, Mexican Oregano, Smoked Sweet Paprika, Garlic Powder & Ground Cumin)

Wash and dry the fresh produce. Halve the rolls. Core, halve and thinly slice the tomato. Crumble the queso fresco. Pick the cilantro leaves off the stems; discard the stems. Cut off and discard the root end of the lettuce; roughly chop the leaves. Quarter the limes. Halve, pit, peel and thinly slice the avocado; top with the juice of 2 lime wedges to prevent browning. Peel and halve the onion; small dice 1 half and thinly slice the remaining half. In a medium bowl, combine the diced onion and the juice of 4 lime wedges.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels; season on both sides with salt, pepper and (reserving a pinch) as much of the spice blend as you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be. In a large pan (nonstick, if you have one), heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the seasoned chicken. Cook 4 to 6 minutes per side, or until browned and cooked through. Transfer to a cutting board to cool slightly. Wipe out the pan.

While the chicken cooks, add the sour cream and remaining spice blend to the diced onion-lime juice mixture. Stir to thoroughly combine; season with salt and pepper to taste.

When cool enough to handle, thinly slice the cooked chicken. Place the bottoms of the rolls, cut sides up, on a clean, dry work surface. Divide the sliced chickenavocado, as much of the sliced onion as you’d like (you may have extra), the tomato, half the queso fresco and the cilantro between the roll bottoms; season with salt and pepper. Top with the juice of the remaining lime wedges and the roll tops.

In the pan used to cook the chicken, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium until hot. Working in 2 batches, add the tortas. Place a heavy pot on top of the tortas to press them down. Cook, occasionally pressing down on the pot, 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until lightly browned and slightly flattened. Transfer to a cutting board or plate.

While the tortas toast, in a large bowl, combine the lettuce, pepitas,remaining queso fresco and as much of the dressing as you’d like (you may have extra dressing). Toss to combine; season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut each toasted torta in half diagonally; divide between 4 plates. Serve with the salad on the side. Enjoy!